[Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science

Sven Kullander Sven.Kullander at nrm.se
Sun Jun 18 06:51:42 CDT 2006

There may be some misunderstanding concerning the Swedish Personal Data Act (PUL). *Harmless* information can be published without prior consent. Publishing only a name is certainly harmless. PUL does not interfere with web publication of the name of a determiner or collector, or the name of the author of a scientific name. All web publishers registered as information publishers are exempt from most restrictions on publishing personal data. The act will be further softened in 2007, permitting publication of personal data in running text. The act concerns only living persons. 

The official description of PUL, including an English translation is here: <http://www.datainspektionen.se/in_english/personal_data.shtml>

For the purposes of collection management, section 10 clears maintaining of a person database for, e.g., loan management; however, publishing such a database with contact information may be in violation of the PUL.

For the NRM fish collection (a government agency collection, and thus documents are publicly available under the principle of public access to official documents), names of collectors and determiners are published on the web. We suppress names of loanees and persons requesting services because such information may harm reseach activities, and we also suppress determinations of unpublished names by omitting such objects from web display. For legally seized objects, the name of the person comitting the crime is not displayed (or otherwise stored electronically), because this is not "harmless" information. There are also cases where a person has requested that her/his names not be published in connection with an object or locality. Finally, we may suppress publication of a range of objects when someone has made advanced determinations in preparation for a revision, to prevent scooping of new ideas (we rather take the information from the publication). Play around at <http://artedi.nrm.se/nrmfish/> . 

In the database we provide a rating of the determination, ranging from Interim to Expert; we believe, however, that many of our collaborators (determiners and collectors) will find it highly useful for their own records to be able to identify which objects they determined or collected. The best-before date for an "expert" determination may not be longer than a year or two, for some experts shorter, so for the informed user, the name+date is more helpul, just like a reference to a scientific publication (author, year).

I would like to point out also that a determiner can be assessed from what she/he wrote on a label in the collection (an official document in our case), or be taken from a publication, in which case we just record public information. Consequently the source of the information may be public property from a direct act of the determiner as well as from a secondary act of the digitizer. 


Sven O. Kullander, PhD, Associate Professor
Vertebrate Zoology, FishBase Sweden, GBIF Sweden
Swedish Museum of Natural History
Tel +46-8-5195 4116

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of taxacom2 at achapman.org
Sent: Sun 2006-06-18 07:32
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science
I certainly agree with you Chris, Mary, Karen  and others, however it is an issue we must address.

In the recent survey that I conducted for GBIF on Dealing with Sensitive Primary Species Occurrence Data, 16% reported restricting information on Collector's names and 5% on Determiner's names (100 respondents). Collector's names were restricted for a number of reasons (e.g. privacy of living people; could be used to track itinerary, etc.; privacy legislation).

Those that restricted Determiner's names all did so because of privacy legislation. Such legislation is in place in several Scandinavian countries (such as Sweden), Australia, Canada and I think Britain. No one could report on a case where the law was actually enforced, and in Australia (so far at least) I know of no institution that restricts this information, although legally they may be required to do so.

Although no questions in the survey specifically mentioned determiners names a number of respondents raised it. In the report, institutions that reported restricting determiner's names were from Argentina, Canada, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden. 

Apparently the Swedish Law is based on EU legislation (http://www.pul.nu/ - there is an English translation) and a number of European countries are reported to be introducing similar laws.

There is also an article discussing this issue in the American Reporter of November 24, 1998 (http://www.praxagora.com/andyo/ar/privacy_sweden.html)

This is a case where although not wanting to, institutions may be forced to restrict this information.  We must prepare for it! I am not sure how we can fight it?


Arthur D. Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services
Toowoomba, Australia

>From Karen Wilson <Karen.Wilson at rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au> on 17 Jun 2006:

> I also agree with Mary and Chris. The name of the person doing the
> identification is the most useful information to give (knowledgeable)
> users. 
> A second useful piece of information to give users is the date of
> identification. The date will indicate (again, to knowledgeable users)
> whether, for example, the determination was made before or after that
> person published a revision of the group concerned. 
> I say 'knowledgeable users' because they are the only group who will be
> able to fully appreciate such information. 
> The general user will probably be happier with something like Arthur's
> suggested A, B, etc., rating scheme. 
> The same principles apply when dealing with species information rather
> than specimens. Thus, for each contributed species record in the
> Catalogue of Life, Species 2000 and ITIS cite just the person's name
> (where provided by the source database - not always provided) and the
> date in the field 'Latest Taxonomic Scrutiny'. We considered a rating
> scheme but decided that is invidious because it depends on someone
> making an assessment of how to rank the abilities/knowledge of someone
> else. This way, we leave it to the user to assess the authoritativeness
> of the record for themselves. 
> General users will not be comfortable assessing this kind of information
> but, as I say, there is a problem with implementing a rating scheme. Who
> is willing to be a judge of whether the person identifying a specimen is
> a global expert or a regional expert or a knowledgeable collector or
> whatever?  An invidious task, indeed!
> Karen W. 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Mary Barkworth
> Sent: Saturday, 17 June 2006 6:22 AM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science
> I wholeheartedly endorse Christian Thompson's statement about knowing
> who identified the specimen - and not some "authorityy level".  Indeed,
> I have gone further and pointed out to some people that if they annotate
> our specimens the benefits of their work are rapdily shared with others
> because we post our data to GBIF on a regular basis.  Having said which,
> I must check to see why the name of the person annotating the specimen
> is not available on the records that I just checked. 
> Mary
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom mailing list
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> This email is intended for the addressee(s) named and may contain
> confidential and/or privileged information. 
> If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender and then
> delete it immediately.  Any views expressed in this email are those of
> the individual sender except where the sender expressly and with
> authority states them to be the views of the Department of Environment
> and Conservation (NSW).
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom mailing list
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/mailman/listinfo/taxacom

Taxacom mailing list
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu

More information about the Taxacom mailing list